Disneyland is arguably one of the most popular vacation destinations, with more than 40,000 people from all over the world visiting the theme park every day. Given the sheer volume of tourists at any given time, many people ask when the best time is to visit the happiest place on earth. Well, the answer to that depends on a number of factors.
January and February are perhaps the deadest months of Disneyland, and while you can consider going on a Wednesday in any of those months to avoid huge crowds, you’ll miss out on the big fireworks that are a highlight of any trip to the park, not to mention having limited access to rides (some of them go through maintenance during these months). Alternatively, you could go during the summer, when all the rides are open and there are fireworks and nighttime shows every single day of the week, but with 40,000++ people visiting the same time as you, the lines will be tremendous, made more difficult by the Anaheim heat.
But hey, visiting Disneyland is about what you want (and if you’re thinking about renting the park for the day, and you’re wondering how much does it cost to rent out Disneyland, don’t: you can’t rent it out). This means deciding whether you’re willing to miss out on some rides and shows just to avoid crowds, or if you’re willing to sacrifice a few rides just to get the ‘full’ Disneyland experience.
In general, that ‘full’ Disneyland experience is at its peak during the holidays, especially the summer. During these peak seasons, Disneyland is open the whole day, which can potentially mean more stuff to do and more things to experience. It’s also during peak seasons that you get the wonderful parades, fireworks, nighttime shows, and other awesome experiences. Of course, the downsides can be fairly brutal: wait times for rides can be in the number of hours, and you’ll be waiting under the California sun, which can go up to the high 70’s and mid 80’s, and this isn’t even mentioning the amount of money you’ll have to shell out for the tickets AND the hotels (which will jack up their prices because, hey, peak season).
Off-peak seasons, usually during January to March on a weekday, see the least amount of visitors in Disneyland. Sure, there might be fewer rides, fewer parades, fewer shows, and no fireworks, but you’ll have more time (and space!) to enjoy the park with your family and friends. Wait times for rides are much shorter too, and even if the line is long, the mild weather can make the wait seemingly pleasant. You’ll still be able to see some beloved Disney characters roaming around, although there’ll be fewer mascots from the more niche franchises.
Peak Season for Magic
Despite the 40,000+ visitors it gets every day, Disneyland is actually only the second-busiest theme park in the world, with Disney World bagging the top spot, getting on average more than 50,000 people every day. So whether it’s peak season or off, there will still be hoards of people in both parks, although off-seasons will have smaller hoards to contend with.
The biggest peak seasons happen during the ‘big’ holidays like Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. During these times, the park can get so full, the park will stop people from coming in when the park is at capacity, and this can happen on the first hour of opening, and they can turn you away even if you have a ticket. Yikes.
So when are off-peak seasons in Disney Land?
These usually fall on the following months:
- The week right after New Year’s all the way through to the middle of February.
- The third week of February all the way to the middle of March, before spring break starts.
- The middle of April all the way through the third week of May, right before summer break.
- The first week of September when most classes start to the second week of October, right before Thanksgiving week.
- The second week of November, right after Halloween and right before Thanksgiving and the Christmas season.
Of course, just because it’s off-peak doesn’t mean there aren’t any fun things to do. Here are some things to expect every month at Disneyland.
The best time to visit Disneyland is the beginning of the year. This is the time when most people are going back to school or work and before the oppressive summer months, meaning smaller crowds and better weather. However, park hours will be shorter during this time of the year, and some rides might be closed for renovation.
If you do go during January, Lunar New Year festivities usually start near the end of the month (depending on when Lunar New Year falls during that year), so be sure to check it out then!
On average, February is the quietest month in Disneyland, since there aren’t any important holidays to draw in the crowds. Disneyland is open for a shorter amount of time, but at least you won’t have to wait for rides. Take note, however, that President’s Day happens on the third Monday of February, so this might bring a large crowd during the weekend. Still, it won’t be as bad as the summer.
As for March, it can be a pleasant experience if you go during the first half, right before spring break starts. Once spring break starts, Disneyland will experience peak-season crowds and it can be difficult to get in, let alone experience any rides. If you miss out on rides, though, don’t worry: Disney California Adventure usually hosts a food-and-wine festival that will last all of March and into mid-April.
May is one of the most underrated times to visit Disneyland: spring break is starting to wind down so the crowds are smaller, the weather is still pleasant, and two words: new rides. Disneyland usually soft-opens new attractions and rides during May in preparation for the summer crowds. However, take note that Memorial Day weekend is one of the busiest weekends of the park, so you might want to go before or after this weekend.
With summer ending and autumn just beginning, crowds are smaller in Disneyland during September and most of October. Crowd size is usually small right after Labor Day weekend in the first Monday of September, and it usually stays low until the Halloween festivities start up during the third week of October.
Much like during May, the weather is pleasant, if not a little cold at times, but the wait times on rides aren’t as long. Plus, unlike January or May, most of the rides are still open, and with Halloween coming up in October, the park starts prepping with Disney Villains roaming the park, soft-opening of the Haunted Mansion, and Mickey’s Halloween Party happening on select nights.
When October rolls in, the park goes into full Halloween mode, complete with decorations, more villains, and even more celebrations. The park hosts a Trick-or-treating event on select nights, when children can come in their scariest costumes and get candy from different rides and booths.
Also in October are Gay Days, unofficial events that celebrate Anaheim’s LGBTQ community. These usually consist of fun and colorful parades.
Right after Halloween and right before Thanksgiving and the Holiday season, Disneyland sees a small off-peak season in early November. Crowds are much smaller than other off-peak season months during the first couple of weeks of November, mostly because most people are saving their visit for Christmas or New Year’s. However, once Thanksgiving weekend rolls around, expect the park to be close to maximum capacity, so be sure to visit before then.
A great thing about visiting Disneyland in November is that the park starts celebrating the holidays in the first couple of weeks of that month. Every year sees a different event happening in the park, so be sure to go to the Disneyland website to find out what day might suit you.
Peak Season is Still Fun
Yes, we’re pretty biased towards going to Disneyland during the off-peak seasons, but that doesn’t mean the peak seasons aren’t fun too! Yes, the lines are long, but you don’t have to ride every single attraction. Visiting during peak seasons require strategic planning of where you want to go, what attractions you want to see, and most importantly, waking up as early as possible so you’re first in line when the doors to the happiest place on earth are opened.